The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: We Can't Hand Over M23 Chief, Says Museveni

interview

Photo: ICRC
Families reunited after months of separation.

If Museveni was Uhuru Kenyatta, he would not attend ICC trial. Uganda is prepared to send more troops to Central African Republic to help maintain peace there. And Joseph Kabila has agreed to sign a deal with defeated M23 rebels. President Museveni discussed these and more issues during an interview with a French news channel last week.

I will first ask you about your reaction to the death of Nelson Mandela...

Well, it was very sad because he suffered, he was sick for quite a long time. I don't know whether that sickness was caused by the years he spent in prison, he has made his contribution and he was old, he was not young, so it had to come.

And he was lucky in his case because there were some of his colleagues who died when they were much younger. This one died at 95 years which was good. So on one hand it is sad, and on the other hand it is a pleasure that God gave him quite a bit of time to do what he wanted to do.

I want to get to the issues you have discussed on the peace and security summit (in France) in regard to the situation in Central African Republic (CAR). There are African troops on the ground, the troops from France are arriving, there are reports of a massacre; what do you think is the solution there?

It is very sad; this is a problem because some of these groups which are ideologically bankrupt get support I don't know from whom to destabilize young democracies, which may have their own problems also.

It is better you let the government go on and you vote it out rather than using guns wielded by people who don't know what they are doing. So, it is very sad, but we are going to intervene. Africa and France, we are going to go in and sort it out.

Are you going to send in more troops as initially scheduled?

Yes, we have agreed... but the details are going to be worked out, I think President [of Chad, Idriss] Deby will give the interview and give you the details, but we have agreed in principle, to send more troops, yes, especially from Chad and other countries, Uganda as well.

Even Uganda, we already have our troops there in the East, but if we can send more, there is no problem. It doesn't matter who sends, the issue is that they will be sent.

That being said, doesn't it bother you that France is sending troops in CAR after doing so in Chad, in Libya and Ivory Coast?

In Libya and Ivory Coast they did not cooperate with the African Union (AU), so they had a problem there, but with Mali and with Central Africa now, we agreed, there is no problem. The issue is when we have not agreed.

But there is still a problem of Africans not being able to deal with African problems which were one of the roles of the summit to make sure that in the near future, Africa is able to do it.

Well, we have formed an African crisis response force... we shall be handling many of our problems and many of them are being handled by Africans.

Uganda has been mediating for months between the Congolese government and the M23 rebel group, then the fruits were that the M23 were defeated militarily.

However, there seems to be negotiations on the deal that did not happen very recently...

There will be a deal soon because the problems of Congo are not military, they are political; they must be handled politically in the end.

When you say soon; how soon do you think?

It will be soon; I agreed with President Kabila but the rest are our details.

There are accusations that both Uganda and Rwanda backed the M23 rebellion and that presumably you decided to withdraw your support and this explains partly the defeat of the group...

That is a lot of rubbish because if a group like that were supported by either us [Uganda] or Rwanda, it would have been much more serious, it would not be easy to defeat such a group if it was really supported by us.

What about the commander of the group Sultan Makenga? He is in Uganda; can you tell us what you are going to do with him? He is wanted by Congo; he is blacklisted by the United Nations for serious crimes...

I don't remember those details of ICC because for us we are not on good terms with ICC... We will get to that... ICC is not serious, they are a bit shallow, so my job is to bring peace in the Congo I am not bothered with ICC.

But with Mr Makenga; what are you going to do with him? What is his status in Uganda?

I don't know his status, it is according to the agreements with the Congo government but I don't know the details, I have not bothered to follow it up.

But would you be ready to hand him over to the Congolese authorities?

No, we don't hand over people like that; unless it follows the law; uhhuu... we don't hand over people.

But the Congolese authorities are saying that you protect him?

Protect him? We protect everybody, even Kabila was in Uganda. I protected Kabila when he was running away from Mobutu. Was it a bad thing?

Do you think the situation in eastern Congo will finally stabilize?

I think so, if the Congo government does bring stability to their country; it will be stable.

Do you trust Joseph Kabila to do so?

Well, he is the elected leader of Congo. It is up to the people of Congo to elect their leaders; it is not me.

Do you think he can indeed bring stability in the eastern Congo and address not only military murders but also address socio-economic problems in that regime?

The people of Congo are the ones who elected him, so they must be trusting him. For me I work with elected leaders of countries.

You have no problem with him nowadays?

Yes, we have no problem with President Kabila. One of the reasons why the situation doesn't change is the appointment of the intervention brigade by the United Nations.

Recently the UN has installed the flying drones at the borders of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. Do you think it is a good thing or it doesn't bother you?

I have no problem. Drones are just eyes in the sky; so, they should be seeing what is happening, so I have no problem at all.

You don't have any issue with that?

I don't have any problem.

I want to get back to the International Criminal Court; you remember some years ago, Uganda referred the situation in the north of the country to the ICC. Do you regret that decision given your criticism of the ICC?

No, that time [Joseph] Kony was not in Uganda, he was in another country where we had no access to him. So, that is why we used a third court (ICC) which could pressurise the other country where Kony was, but in the case of Kenya these are within the jurisdiction of Kenya.

Why should the ICC insist on trying them far away from their country?

Secondly, some of the problems of Africa are not legal, they are ideological but the ICC seems to be using legal, legal... when in fact these issues are ideological. We think that is a shallow way of dealing with perceptional issues...

Are some of the issues racial?

I don't know whether it is racist but it is certainly shallow, that is serious.

Do you think African states should withdraw from the ICC?

We may have to do that. If we are in bad company, we may have to do that, but we are still studying it.

Would you advise President Kenyatta not to attend his trials in the ICC?

He shouldn't attend, if it was me I wouldn't go there, because he is the elected leader of Kenya. If they want to... many of our constitutions say that when somebody is in office, he doesn't go to our own courts, our internal courts, you wait until he has finished his mandate then you can take him to the other court if you want because the immunity doesn't continue forever.

Last question, Mr President; you have been in power for 27 years; are you considering running again for president in the next elections scheduled for 2016?

That will be for my party to decide.

But you don't rule it out?

That will be for my party to decide, that is what I am telling you.

Don't you think that after many years in power it is a good sign for leaders to say, I am [exiting] the stage for younger generations to take over?

It depends on the assignments because if that was the approach, I have been acting for the last 50 years. It is not only 27 years, 50 years but much of that 50 years I was in the resistance. So, if I had said that I have resisted for five years, this is enough let me go home, what would have happened?

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InFocus

DR Congo Rebels Sign Peace Deal

Families reunited after months of separation.

According to a declaration signed with the government in Nairobi, M23 has agreed to end the rebellion and transform itself into a legitimate political party. Read more »